February 23, 2010

Second Life Viewer 2 Beta - First Impressions

Like any software product these days, there's a lot to like about the new viewer and some annoying things to dislike. Here's a screen shot to get started (click on it for full size view):

Here are some of the new features:
  • Darker, more "gamer" oriented color theme. I'm agnostic on this. It looks cool but it's also harder to read.
  • Icons, icons everywhere! They've gone cookoo for icons. Even chat now defaults to having an avatar icon for everyone in your group. It's like Twitter on steroids! Personally, the avatar icons take up a lot of screen real estate and seem to make SL much slower to load. You can disable this somewhat in Preferences.
  • Chat reorganized. This is the one change I really don't like. Linden Lab keeps messing with how chat is presented and, IMHO, they keep making it harder and harder to actually use. Group chat has turned into an iconic mess. You can turn off the individual icons from showing up in the chat stream, which helps on real estate a little, but it's still very hard to read and looks visually cluttered. See screen cap to the left. It's a Facebook/Twitter treatment and not very suitable for realtime chat. Plus, when a group is minimized, it only shows an Icon for the group. Not very good if the group doesn't have a recognizable picture for the profile. This area is currently a FAIL for me.
  • Simpler and reorganized menus. You'll see Me, Communicate, World, Build and Help across the top menu bar now. The old hidden "Advanced" menu is still available but now broken into two parts - Advanced and Develop. That makes sense. I'm not sure about the other changes though.
  • Improved voice. This could be huge although I haven't had the chance to try it yet. There's an auto-on/off feature, auto levels plus echo cancellation to help deal with those peeps who insist on having their speakers and mic on at the same time.
  • Flyout menu tabs on the right. Generally, I like this although I don't like that the screen jumps right and left when you activate it. It also shoves your HUDs off screen. It now contains some of the things that were on menus before INCLUDING inventory, profile, places, people and a new clothing tab!
  • Virtual outfit folders. YES YES YES!!!! This is teh awesome!! I love it. I can create outfits that reuse NO COPY items to my heart's content! Whatever you're wearing can be turned into a complete outfit including hair, skin, clothes, attachments, etc. This may help trim the load on the asset servers a bit too.
  • New tattoo layer. Any new layers will be an improvement! Still no mesh upload and I'm not sure if alphas on avatars are available yet.
  • Favorites bar. A nice place for frequently used landmarks. Yay!
  • Media controls. Ugggh. They've moved this into a little button at the top right of the screen and made it completely unclear what it does. While the old ones weren't great, at least they made sense and allowed immediate fine tuning of all the sounds and junk around you.
The big question for Linden Lab is, will all these changes help improve the new user experience? Frankly I don't think it will have much effect. There aren't any big breakthroughs in UI design here. Some things are more complicated and obscure, some things are easier. What hasn't changed and what really needs to be addressed is the hand-holding needed (like mentors), griefing at Help Islands and the "what do I do next" issues. Until Teh Lab solves these bigger issues, no amount of eye candy in a viewer is going to help keep someone in Second Life a day longer than whether they are having fun or not.

2 comments:

  1. Agree with you on most of what you listed. Just to add;
    *New camera control is pants and too big with no resize available.
    *The chat is a nightmare to deal with but am going to persist using the beta to see if it's just a, shock of the new, or it just isn't intuitive.
    *The beta has removed the right click pie menu but more importantly has removed the inspect function from that menu.
    *Hovertip info popups keep popping up every time your mouse goes over an object. Not sure if this does it over a root prim or any of a linked set. Why this was included and then made a default I have no idea.
    *The back/forward browser function for revisiting your recent TPs is excellent. As is the Fave bar.
    *The media section is tragic in placement and size and menu. I logged on and was subjected to blaring Hip Hop for 5 mins till I could work out how to control it.
    *I haven't tried it yet but those who have like the media streaming through a prim utility.

    Now having said all that, overall it is growing on me and I'm sure that the more familiar I get with it the more "intuitive" it might become once I figure what kind of intuition to use. I can see how it is more user friendly in some respects. My hope is that LL take on user comments and address them in the final version. I have noticed that most people are flagging the same issues as you and I Snickers so hopefully those issues will be addressed. But for a beta I would score it 7/10 atm and that maybe an 8/10 by the end of the week.

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  2. windmillchaser ConstantineMay 31, 2010 at 4:31 AM

    This is why I will NEVER, WON'T HAPPEN, WILL NOT use a beta version. It is just not worth the hassle. I will use an older version of sl viewer.

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All thoughts are welcome.